What a difference two games can make. After a deflating late loss on the opening day and a serious wake up call against League Two Luton, Villa are finally giving us a reason to hope.
Dare To Dream?
Much like in the aftermath of Villa’s opening two losses it was important not to jump too far off the deep end. We also need to manage expectations in the good times, but who can blame us for getting a bit carried away after over 6 months without a competitive win.
After the 2015/16 season, a 3-0 win felt like something we may never experience again. Four points is by no means an achievement that in itself warrants a full-on party for many, but what was notable this week was the return to Villa Park of several things long forgotten.
I refer to entertainment, decent football, a winning feeling (or at least not a losing one) and dare I say, hope? Alongside a much better return on the pitch was again a display of incredible support from the claret and blue faithful who, even on a Tuesday night, showed up in numbers that many of our rivals could only dream of. This will be a key factor in the resurrection of this club and we’re happy to oblige, particularly when there’s better football on display.
Last season many of us exclaimed that we weren’t expecting miracles, but a bit of effort and entertainment were a bare minimum. If this week is anything to go by, than we may begin to get more of that minimum and it’s long overdue.
Getting It Right on The Park
Our players seem to be growing in confidence and ability, and the team’s approach is starting to make more sense. Rather that leaving Gestede up top on his own the wide players have started to deliver crosses. Such a simple concept, that was so long forgotten. However, evidence from this week’s games is that we won’t become one dimensional long-ball merchants, we will play a bit of ball too.
The squad is still in need of reinforcements but improvements have been made, even in the last week. Tshibola offers a more physical presence than Gardner and also looks tidy. Even the much-maligned Bacuna seems to have upped his game and, like it or not, may be our best bet at right-back for the time being. Our centre-back pairing, while not flawless, are much more composed than recent predecessors. Perhaps most encouraging is our variety of play.
As mentioned, newfound width and delivery will get the most from Gestede, who has proven before he can rack up the goals in this division. With this as a plan A we won’t get too far but combined with Grealish’s trickery, McCormack’s dynamism, and Ayew’s admittedly unpredictable flair, Villa finally look like we could unlock teams, as the Rotherham scoreline showed. Even against Huddersfield there is a feeling with more time to gel our attacking talents will bring more goals and a more clinical end game.
Taking a Deep Breath
Not everything this week was as comforting as scoring goals and picking up points. Villa seemed so close to holding out under late pressure from Huddersfield rather than imploding again, but alas old habits die hard and Villa found a way to shoot themselves in the foot.
Gollini has clear potential but bringing in a more experienced mentor may have been a safer approach instead of throwing him into the deep end, where he has made some costly mistakes.
Luckily, like the Italian stopper, the season in still young and such mistakes will not yet prove fatal. If we can show the same incremental improvement over coming weeks, this unusual optimism may hang around a bit longer.
Ins and Outs
Almost as encouraging as the on field improvement has been developments off it. The arrival of James Chester is a boost to a shaky back line and the Welsh international already looks like forming a decent partnership with captain Tommy Elphick. Jedinak will bring more experience and leadership to a squad in desperate need of both and numerous other interesting names are being touted.
As exciting as the new arrivals are, hints that some of last season’s bogeys may be heading for the exit are just as reassuring in terms of the club making progress. We know Joleon Lescott has a flash car, so hopefully it helps him get out of Villa and up to Rangers as fast as possible.
It’s no coincidence that our best performances have been those that have featured as few of last season’s sheep as possible. Long may that continue.
Will the sleeping giant that is Aston Villa Football Club finally awake? With continued investment, the best fans in the country, and signs of improvement, would you bet against us? There’s reason to hope again.
A Lost Villan/Hero
Amidst the satisfaction that Villa appear to be on the up, came the bombshell news that former Villa star Dalian Atkinson had died as a result of being tased by police. My earliest memories of Aston Villa contain a heavy dose of Dalian’s exploits and he was among my first heroes as a young Villan.
Incidents like this put things in perspective and the support shown before, during, and after the game was a fitting tribute. Atkinson was a part of a Villa team that had real class, swagger, and character and he will be both missed and long remembered.
The forward had some great moments at the club but it’s safe to say I’ll never get sick of watching ‘that’ goal against Wimbledon, and the umbrella based antics that followed. Another Holte Ender in the sky. Rest in Peace big man.
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